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You again!

January 18, 2021

Back in the 1980s, during a stint I did as a show biz writer, I went to the location where a series called Nobody’s Perfect was being filmed to interview its star, Elaine Stritch. While there I met the other main actors involved, including the fellow playing her husband.

Sometime later I went to ITV for the official launch of a series called Whoops Apocalypse! after interviewing one of its stars, John Cleese. (I was ever so excited about that interview. I mean, John Cleese! Wow. Turned out to be like pulling teeth. One of the toughest interviews I ever did.) At the launch I ran into and said hello to the actor from Nobody’s Perfect, who played the Russian president in this new show.

When I ran into this actor at a third function, we both said “You again!” I told him I thought the gods were trying to tell us something, that it was time I actually interviewed him. As it happened by this time he had a show of his own called Bird of Prey which was about to go on air, so it was a good hook for the interview.

We met for lunch in Joe Allen in Covent Garden (of which, according th the restaurant’s website, Joanna Lumley has said, “When in doubt, eat at Joe Allen, you will fit in here forever, they take care of you, it’s divine.”).

The actor in question was Richard Griffiths and this is the interview that came out of that lunch.

I have quite a few cuttings from my days in journalism, but this is the only show biz interview I’ve kept, because at that lunch in Covent Garden we hit it off like a house on fire and afterwards, for a while, were great mates. (If you click on the image to view it separately and then click it to increase its size, you should be able to read the interview, although you might need a magnifying glass.)

As if I needed any proof of how sympatico we were, here’s one piece of evidence.

In those days I lived in a flat in Finchley Road. One day, walking down the road at the Swiss Cottage end, I passed a framing and print shop. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted something in the window that stopped me in my tracks. It was a framed print by an artist of whom at that time I had never heard. I had recently hoovered my way through all the novels of Raymond Chandler and this particular piece of art looked as if it could have been ripped out of the pages of one of his books.

If you don’t know it, the painting is Nighthawks by Edward Hopper, who subsequently became one of my favourite artists. I went into the shop and bought the framed print, which I took home and hung in the lounge. (That framed print has travelled over oceans and continents several times and is hanging on the wall beside my desk right now.)

The first time Richard came to my flat for dinner, he walked into the lounge, looked at the print and said, “Oh, my god, that’s so Chandleresque.” As I said, same page.

In case you haven’t already guessed, it was indeed Richard Griffiths to whom I was referring when I said the other day that the original idea for A Divine Comedy came out of a night in the pub with my friend Richard. And it was he who penned the Shakespearean dialogue, which has earned him a credit for “additional material” on the cover page.

I’ve also given him a mention in the play itself.

I’m sorry to say we lost touch when I moved from London to Canada. I’m even sorrier to say he died – far too young – several years ago. (I did go to see his award winning performance in The History Boys during its original run in London and I did think about hanging around the stage door afterwards to try to say hello, but I didn’t. I wish I had.)

If he was still alive I would somehow find a way to track him down to say, “Remember this?”

As it is, I will just have to hope that he’s raising a glass to the play (and me) from the great cocktail party in the sky.

Cheers, darling. It seems something is actually going to happen with that little play you helped me write.

From → Blog

  1. krysross permalink

    A lovely remembrance. Interesting that you don’t mention his role in the Harry Potter films—probably what everyone else knows him for.

    • It drives me mad that that is the role for which he is most remembered. Like Alec Guinness as Obi Wan Kenobi. (As I said in the script.)

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